The best eco-friendly trainers on the market right now

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You went vegan for January, and you’re all about the compost and recycling, but have you checked out the latest and greatest trainers that benefit the planet? Stacey went on a hunt to discover the best eco-friendly trainers on the market right now…

OK, no one wants trainers that are great for the planet but feel awful. Especially me. And of course, no one wants shoes that sound great but can’t go the distance. So here are my top three picks to take you through Earth Day (April 22 this year) and beyond – and look amazing while doing good for the planet. Bonus: all three of the top eco-trainers are ultra lightweight and perfect for traveling; what’s different is the cushion profile and experience. Let’s lace up and check out the best eco-friendly trainers on the market right now…

The street-to-gym wonder that’s saving the planet: Adidas Terrex Two Parley

Adidas partnered with Parley back in 2015 to create a trainer made from yarn spun from ocean waste and illegal nets. Yes, you read that right. So do they feel weird? Nope. Without knowing the source, you’d think they were regular knitted trainers. They also look incredibly stylish while being comfortable, supportive and well-cushioned, perfect for running (for the bus or outdoors, as you wish). In fact, they look so nice I refused to wear them out the first day I got them because it was raining and they don’t explicitly say they can be washed and I’ve learned my lesson on previous guessing with sneakers (don’t ask).

Fortunately, the next day was sunny and I decided a quick run was in order with them to test them out. When I first pulled them on (note that they’re sock-like, not traditional “trainers”), I worried that they would feel less substantial, because they were so incredibly light – but they quickly proved they’ve got exactly what it takes for pounding London pavements – enough cushion to keep you supported, and the upper moves well with your foot to keep it cradled but not stifled.

I really liked the fabric – and the ocean cred isn’t hurting the bottom line either for Adidas, which recently has announced plans to up production to 11 million pairs this year. So if you’re into doing well for the world while you do your body good, you can lace up in good conscience with these. The only con I found? The back comes up high, so if you’ve relatively short ankles (like me), you’ll need to wear higher socks. But hey, the 70s knee high sports socks are in now, so you can be ultra hip and ultra good all at once.

Photo: Vivobarefoot

Recycling plastics bring you that back to barefoot feeling: VivoBarefoot Stealth II

My trainer is always nattering on about wearing the right shoes to train, telling me one of the reasons I tend to fall over during lunges (despite my being sure it’s more down to my natural clumsiness) is that my shoes hinder my proprioception (that’s a really big word to describe the sense you have of the relative position of your body and strength of effort being employed in movement).

Basically, he wants me in the lightest, flattest shoes possible without all the cushioning I love so much – because he says it would allow my body to better manage and control my balance. Before I tried these, I wasn’t sure what he meant.

Now, I get it. VivoBarefoot shoes are like going barefoot, only without those weird toes in those other shoes that make you look like you’ve got hands on your feet. (#nojudgement). The shoes (I tried the Stealth II Women)  are made from Recycled PET, which repurposes plastic waste by giving it a second life in shoes and keeping it from entering landfill and our oceans and have puncture-resistant soles with no heel or support (supposedly allowing for the 200,000 nerves in my feet to give me better feedback).

They’re incredibly breathable, but they do take some getting used to; I found my toes spread out way more than they normally are able to in trainers and my feet felt weirdly tired the first time, like I’d used my whole foot in a way that I hadn’t in a long, long time,  but a second outing felt more comfortable and honestly? I get what my trainer was saying now. My feet roll more naturally, and it feels natural – like walking barefoot but with protection. TBH, I wouldn’t run in these, because I need more arch support to do that, but for walks and especially for traveling where I’m limited to a carryon? Perfect. You can also wash them if you pop out the insole, so they’ll come with me on my next trip.

Photo: Crystalin Marie

The beyond-comfy AND cool all-round trainers: Allbirds Wool Runners

Allbirds manufactures shoes from either merino wool or eucalyptus trees. Rather than synthetics such as ethylene-vinyl acetate (EVA), soles are made from sugar cane. About a year ago, the company found a way to make shoe laces using “post-consumer” recycled plastic bottles, and also reimagined shoe packaging, using 90% post-consumer recycled cardboard that serves as a shoebox, shopping bag, and mailer all in one, and the merino wool production takes 60% less energy than traditional material creation processes. So what does that mean for the sneakers themselves? In a word: heavenly.

The sole is cushioned enough to wear all day long, the wool is cool when my feet get hot and warm when I first go out into the street, and here’s the best: you don’t even need socks and you have comfy, dry, non-sweat-swamp feet ALL DAY LONG. And here’s the best thing? Spin ‘em around in the machine (take the insoles out first) and they’re clean and dry fast. But that’s not even the best part: I wore these to work (thought I packed my work shoes, didn’t, realised I would just have to deal) for a full day.

Millenials who normally ignore my presence came up specifically to comment on the Allbirds. They’re cute. They’re fun. They’re fresh. They’re a chic charcoal…and more important? they feel amazing WHILE they look great. So: would I wear them for hardcore gym activity or a super long run? Despite the name, probably not. They’re cushioned but not in the way that I prefer for an intense workout and they don’t really have the “grip” needed for slippery surfaces like a general athletic shoe. But the comfort is off the charts, and they’re now at the front of the closet and could make it through a light gym workout next time I have to go on travel for work – and they WILL be coming with me, because I can already tell they’ll make a travel experience first class comfort.

The verdict

Embrace the opportunity to save our environment. Shoe brands (new and old) are making it easy to do so, so why not try them out and see if they work for you. After all, these days you can look cool and feel great while actually doing good so why not make it happen?

As part of their ‘Recycle my Run’ initiative, specialist running store, Runners Need are giving customers who recycle their old running shoes in store, £20 off their next pair of trainers at Runners Need until 7th March 2019.

By Stacey

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Main image: Crystalin Marie


Hettie is the editor and co-founder of DOSE. A keen runner, she’s also partial to a blast of high-intensity and hot yoga. A country girl at heart, she divides her time between London and the lush rolling hills of North Devon. When she’s not jetting off on her next adventure, Hettie can be found in a candle-lit alcove with a laptop, a spaniel and a full bodied Malbec.

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